Huge Red Flag at Netscape

A little known Digg-fact is that a relatively small group of users submit a large percentage of the stories that end up on the Digg home page. Netscape, which recently relaunched as a Digg-clone, wants to pay those top users to switch over to them. Jason Calacanis, who runs the Netscape property, wrote a post earlier today offering to pay top Digg users $1,000 a month or more to switch to Netscape and submit news there instead.

I have a couple of observations on this. Netscape has a massively larger audience than Digg, but has absolutey failed to impact Digg growth at all. AOL placed a big bet on this product, and I imagine they want to see fast results. They aren’t getting those results. Jason’s post is a sign of desperation more than anything.

There is the question of whether or not this will fix this. Digg’s Achilles heel is that such a small group of active users drives so much of their success. However, even if those users bail to Netscape, others will certainly take their place at Digg. In my opinion, Netscape may gain some human assets and may get better story submissions, but Digg will probably continue to thrive.

At the end of the day, the Netscape product is a soulless reproduction of one of the most interesting cultural experiments occuring on the web right now. It was thrown at millions of mainstream Internet users (previous Netscape portal users) who don’t understand Digg and probably don’t care (yet). If anything, my bet is that total page views at Netscape have dropped since the changeover, possibly substantially. Buying users from Digg won’t change that one bit.

It looks like AOL has a mess on its hands. The obvious question is, will Jason will be the fall guy when it comes time to point fingers?

The deck chairs are being rearranged on the Titanic Netscape.